I had a particularly goofy dream last night, as most dreams tend to be. In this one I was in a dark misty back alley somewhere, when an older English looking chap dressed in a long trench coat complete with tails, a top hat and a silver tipped cane approached me. Now this can’t be good?
I was very frightened of this person and as he touched me with his cane, that part of my body began to disappear? The more his cane touched me, the more body parts on me faded away. And of course like in most dreams, I found I could barely move, my futile attempts at escape happening in slow motion.
Thankfully, my dream disappeared — before I did!
WHY DO WE DREAM?
Experts say that on average we dream somewhere between 4 – 6 times a night. Most dreams we never remember, a few we do recall upon waking but then soon fade away. There are some however that we may remember for hours after or even perhaps days. And then there are those (mostly nightmares) that can stay with us for weeks, months, even years. And a rare few — that last a lifetime.
Science believes, that our dreams are a result of our brain’s working while we sleep, reviewing the days events and discarding what it deems as not worthy for long-term memory. As you sleep, these bits and pieces of discarded memories get clumped together forming groups of a mishmash nature that we later (upon waking) interpret as dreaming. Perhaps that’s why some dreams (most?) have you jumping inexplicably from one situation, event or location to another, all within the same dream. And Usually without any pants on?
Others believe, that dreams are messages from our subconscious, with hidden meanings waiting to be interpreted. Example: That if you dream of birds — you are secretly hoping to hear from someone or expecting a message. That if you dream of nature or of animals — that you should trust your gut, return to your natural instincts in trying to resolve a particular troubling issue. And so on!
Regardless of how, or why we dream, the fact is we all do. And not just us, but other species as well. Every see a dog’s leg twitching while it sleeps? Whining or whimpering as it dreams? This is why science believes that dreaming is an important process of the brain, an integral part of our lives that without we wouldn’t survive.
Excerpt below is from Gary L Wenk’s book “The Brain. What everyone should know.”
ON Sleep — Sleep is required for the removal of built up waste products in the brain produced by normal brain functioning. In addition to providing an opportunity for the brain to flush itself of debris, sleep also allows Neuron wiring enhancement and strengthening.
Also, while you are sleeping the brain appears to rewind the videotape of your days events, replay them and delete weak or unimportant memories while enhancing those of importance. Essentially, sleeping and dreaming are ways that the brain has evolved to get rid of the chemical and mental debris that it collects during the day.
DREAMS WE REMEMBER
But what about those few rare dreams that stay with us over a longer duration. Dreams that we can remember having months or even years ago, perhaps going all the way back to our childhood days. Dreams that were so intense, so lifelike or memorable, or perhaps so frightening, that you will never, ever, forget them?
I myself have a few dreams from my childhood that I can still vividly remember. One when I was only 3 or 4 years old (before preschool or in my era, kindergarten) and one, as a teenager perhaps 13 or 14. Both are re-callable even now in my 60’s.
So why do I still remember these dreams after all those years? Perhaps because they were so frightening, and (at the time) left a strong emotional tag associated with these two nightmarish memories. After all, that is what makes a memory in the first place. You will be very hard pressed to recall a memory (not recent), that “doesn’t’ have some kind of emotional association attached to it.
Perhaps the stronger the emotional value, the better or longer we remember our dreams?
DREAMS ARE MADE BY?
Could our dreams be chemically induced by stress, or hormonal changes in our bodies as say, a boy’s “wet-dream” during puberty, or a woman’s “life-change” cycle? Stress you’d think, would be a factor? We all have had those nights where stress and anxiety from our day has built up so as to making sleep difficult. Some, sadly have these issues more times than not! So are their dreams different from ours, more intense, more vivid?
What about today’s increased stress with the virus pandemic. Are we dreaming more because of it? Having more nightmares as a result of our anxiety over it!
Although dreams are still memories, they are remarkably made while we are sleeping! A story our brain manufactures for us, including in most cases: Images, narrative, a story line of sorts and feelings of emotion. Sometimes, very intense emotions, including fear, desperation, love or lust to name a few.
Yet, these dreams can be at times so life-like, so emotionally charged that we remember them upon waking. Sometimes remember them for years, even a lifetime.
And what about reoccurring dreams? Ever have the same dream over? Perhaps over and over many times? What does this mean? Is this dream trying to tell us something? Could it be a message from our subconscious that we are not yet able to interpret? Or possibly, a long ago memory that was so frightening or was so consciously damaging that it has been banished to the deep recesses of our mind; escaping only occasionally to then haunt us in a dream.
So what about your dreams? What dreams do you remember? What dreams will you — never forget?
And are these dreams subconscious messages? Or only intense emotional memories manufactured by our story-telling brain?
What do you think?